Brooklyn, I descend two stories of stairs, and our stained and dinged pressed-in patterns on the plaster. Places there were holes, there is now a smooth smear instead of the pattern. I walk the walk to the subway, the walk to the station that is so many lengths: so long when you are late for work, short when the weather is pleasant and it doesn’t matter when you arrive, you sigh at the next set of stairs, down, down, to the train. Up at Wall Street, past George Washington and Federal Hall, into churchful of worshippers and tourists and paid musicians who make it fancy. A plaque to remind everyone Queen Elizabeth visited, once.
Lawrence, I descend one story. We have wallpaper with a pattern so old-fashioned it seems it could be the original. I’m certain it isn’t. It also has a few places it’s been bumped by people moving in and out, patched spots. I walk two blocks, and up five steps, into the little church where everyone is a worshipper, and everyone knows everyone and who is there and who is not. The sharing of the peace is uncomfortably long for someone who only shakes the hands near her. She sits and pretends to study the bulletin. A plaque to show the church was founded in 1856, by a guy who came from Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The streets are equally busy, a few cars. Manhattan is not busy, Sunday mornings, and is certainly not busy Wall Street, weekend mornings. Walk past the Wall Street bull, people taking photos, getting the balls in, for sure.
Mass Street, Lawrence, weekends, is busy, all the foot traffic, people standing outside waiting for their table at the places where one can get breakfast from a waitress. The accordion player, instead of the guys who sell little Statues of Liberty and signs that say things like, “Coffee saves lives,” and “Sure I’m a bitch.”
There are two kinds of people in Manhattan, downtown: visitors and residents. Visitors are seeing the bull, the stock exchange, Federal Hall, and the Statue of Liberty. Residents are running by the water, getting lunch, sitting with a book.
There is one kind of person in Lawrence: people who live here. The guy who sits all day, most days, and says hello to me, and then returns to his schizophrenic-ish monologue. I think he thinks of me: the woman with the bright coats. The people in athletic wear as day wear. The people wrangling small children. The students returning to their work, after dropping it Thursday night.
When I cross one street, I close my eyes a second, missing, pretending I am walking on a subway platform, this is something I miss, the smell of it, the feeling of joining the circulatory system of the city, letting oneself be pushed somewhere new, wherever the train goes.
This is not the subway platform. Here there is sun, so much sunlight, all for free, anyone can have it on your whole skin, up, down, turn around and in it. The only sun in Manhattan is at the tip of the island, at Battery Park, where those people run, and wait in line for the ferries, and sit on benches and face the water.